University construction creates minor obstacles

V. Paul

Hard hats might become the latest fashion trend on campus as University construction builds up to its frenzied peak this summer.
Nine projects underway will soon clog three University arteries with bulldozers, backhoes, cranes and construction crews, and whose chain-link fenced areas will make a maze of intra-campus commuting.
Mechanized sights and sounds will abound around Church Street, Washington Avenue Southeast and East River Road for at least six months as some projects are slated to be completed in January 2000, and others to continue until 2002.
“We’ve been fighting against the perception that all of this construction is going to shut down the campus,” said Tim Busse, spokesman for Facilities Management. “There’s going to be some headaches for folks, but getting to campus is still doable.”
Students and faculty members will need to detour around the renovations of Ford, Murphy and Amundson halls, as well as the Mechanical Engineering building; the demolition of Lyon Labs, Millard and Owre halls, and the subsequent construction of the Molecular and Cellular Biology building in their place; and the construction of the first phase of Riverbend Commons, all along these roads.
University officials are working to ensure that these projects do not interfere with the campus community any more than they need to. They hope that by fall semester, construction crews will be on schedule and students will keep informed of on-campus hazards.
The southernmost lane along Washington Avenue Southeast will be closed to vehicular traffic for all of August to accommodate the demolition of the three biology buildings.
University officials have insisted that the lane re-open for the start of the 1999-2000 school year, said Busse. The projects in that area are all on time and the new construction activities will not impact the community any more than the projects currently in progress, said Earl North, one of two principals of Armlin North and Associates, the company handling the construction of the Mollecular and Cellular Biology building and Riverbend Commons.
The Riverbend Commons project, a parking facility and a new overlying apartment-style student housing complex facing the Mississippi River, will spur an increase in construction traffic along East River Road. Convoys of large dump trucks hauling tons of dirt excavated from the site will run along the bluffs to the highway, Busse said. Excavation of the site will end in October, after which the housing complex’s erection will take place.
“We don’t expect the truck traffic will be exceptionally heavy,” North said. “It’ll be steady, evenly paced. As the intensity of the construction project increases, we would expect that the traffic increases.”
Pedestrian and bicycle traffic along Church Street will be severely curtailed because of the gauntlet of construction staging areas that front each of the buildings being renovated. Students returning for fall semester will need to find alternate routes through campus via Northrop Mall or Union Street, said Anna McDonagh, Facilities Management’s overall project manager for the Church Street sites.
Amundson Hall renovations will be completed in the fall, McDonagh said, freeing up some space for students on Church Street. Just across the street, Murphy and Ford hall renovations are five months ahead of schedule, Busse said, to be completed by January 2000.
Their construction sites, however, will be replaced to the north with renovations to the Architecture building that will start later that semester, adding another chained-off construction site to the University obstacle course.
The construction and renovation of portions of the Mechanical Engineering building will keep its staging area until next summer, when the project is expected to be completed.
“The traffic on Church Street is a huge issue for us,” McDonagh said. “We’re working on a variety of signs and barricades to really inform the students about the dangers of the construction traffic.”